Pretty and really with gradable and ungradable adjectives

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netcrawler

Member
Russian-Ukraine
1. We know that there are gradable adjectives (good, bad, interesting, boring etc.) and ungradable adjectives (amazing, furious, broken etc).

We can use "extremely/very/fairly" + a gradable adjective, but can't use "simply/completely/absolutely" + a gradable adjective.

And we can use "simply/completely/absolutely" + an ungradable adjective, but can't use "extremely/very/fairly" + an ungradable adjective.

Are those statements correct?

2. And there are words "pretty" and "really". They write that these ones can be used both with gradable adjectives and with ungradable adjectives. Is that right?
 
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    What is stated in 1. seems to be reasonable.
    However, the problem lies in defining certain adjectives as gradable or ungradable. For example, unique is regarded as gradable by a number of people (She is very unique), while others insist that it is ungradable.
    Some adjectives can be both gradable and ungradable, e.g. human.

    Regarding 2., this does not mean that you can use pretty/really with all adjectives. Can you say This is the pretty northernmost part of town, for example? Or Can I have a really double whisky?
     

    netcrawler

    Member
    Russian-Ukraine
    However, the problem lies in defining certain adjectives as gradable or ungradable. For example, unique ..
    Of course there are exceptions. But the most of adjectives can be divided into gradable and ungradable.


    Regarding 2., this does not mean that you can use pretty/really with all adjectives. Can you say This is the pretty northernmost part of town, for example? Or Can I have a really double whisky?
    I understand that. Buy let's take some popular ungradable adjectives. Can we say?

    1. It's really broken. It's pretty broken.
    2. He's really dead. He's pretty dead.
    3. It's really impossible . It's pretty impossible.
    4. It's really perfect . It's pretty perfect .

    I guess:
    1. + +
    2. + -
    3. + -
    3. + -

    Thanks for your replies.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I could use "pretty impossible", but not the others. I could just about use (in informal speech) "pretty well dead/pretty well perfect/pretty well broken": "He's pretty well dead".

    I wouldn't say that "pretty" is as positive as "really".
     
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